Hanping Chinese dictionary for Android has been updated so much over the last few months that’s it’s hard to keep up. Hanping (Free, Pro) has been my dictionary of choice for Android since I started using it in early 2010 and it’s been the trusty dictionary that has helped me through many a Chinese lesson. There are other Chinese dictionaries for Android such as CiDian, which I initially liked, but had to abandon because searching was unbearably slow, and then there is the impending release of Pleco for Android which we’ll be looking at later this week, but as it stands Hanping is by far the best on offer at the moment.
Since last looking at Hanping the most notable changes are as follows:
Night Mode – When I reviewed Cidian for Android I mentioned that one of the features that I liked the most was the dark background. Which, in my opinion, is much easier on the eye and should also help save battery life on certain mobile phone screens. Well, Hanping now features ‘Night Mode’ which enables a black background with white text throughout the app, much better!
Phonetic System – Having learnt Chinese in Taiwan I have always used the Zhuyin (BoPoMoFo) phonetic system, so I was obviously pleased to see Zhuyin added to Hanping. As far as I know Hanping is the only Chinese dictionary that offers Zhuyin (If I’m wrong please correct me in the comments).
Tags/Lists – Last time I reviewed Hanping words could be saved to ‘user lists’, but something I found frustrating was that only one list could be activated at a time. Now “User Lists” have been replaced by tagging and starred words. When viewing a word you just click the star icon to the top right to automatically save the word to your default tag list. After clicking the star the ‘Tags’ menu button option will now be activated, meaning you can select multiple tags. I really like the fact that you can select multiple tags now, but I still feel this part of the app could be improved. As it stands you always have to click the star icon to enable the Tags menu option, otherwise it’s greyed out. I’d rather it wasn’t greyed out and I could tag a word with multiple tags directly, without having the extra step of first ‘starring’ a word. Another small criticism is that sometimes user lists are referred to as ‘starred’, and you click an icon of a star, but then you ‘tag’ the words rather than ‘star’ them, the wording isn’t consistent and I could see new users being a bit confused by this. This really is nitpicking, but I believe if both of these points were addressed the experience of saving words would be improved greatly.
Other notable features include:
Widgets – One of the major benefits of Android is the widgets feature, and Hanping takes advantage of this by allowing you to create widgets that pull words from your chosen word list. So if you were creating word lists based on a textbook chapter you could create a widget of the words in that list, and then periodically see a new word appear on your phone’s home screen which is good for reinforcement.
Tone Colouring – If you’re used to using a colouring scheme for characters to distinguish them by tone then you’ll be happy to know Hanping features four different colouring schemes.
Audio Pronunciation – Definitely a premium feature and one worth paying for is the option to hear the word spoken out loud. This is perfect for when you are studying alone and need to hear a word spoken. The pronunciation isn’t amazing, but it is good nonetheless.
Searching Online – When viewing a word if you click the ‘Links’ button (‘Search Online’ might be a more accurate label) you can search for the character on a huge array of websites like Jukuu, Skritter, Nciku, MDBG and many more. When I learn a character I always like to see how it’s used in a sentence, so this is a feature that I find really useful.
This is by no means a complete list of the available features, they are the ones that I have found most useful while using Hanping.
Overall Hanping is great, one of the things I like most about it is the speed – There really is no wait when searching for words, and it makes all the difference. As I mentioned above, I had to stop using CiDian because of the delay (a few seconds in some cases) and the annoying magnifying glass icon that bounces back and forth.
If you’re taking Chinese classes or learning Chinese by yourself then you need to have a dictionary that makes the learning experience easier and Hanping really goes a long way to achieving that. Apart from the few things I mentioned above about lists/tags the only other improvement I could see is possibility of adding different dictionaries to the app. The built in CC-Cedict dictionary, though good, does have it’s limitations. I’m not sure how licenced dictionaries could be added while keeping costs down, one idea might be selling them as optional addons to be purchased separately.
If you’re using an Android device and learning Chinese then Hanping is pretty much essential, and if you don’t want to invest in the pro version right away then you should at least try out the free version.